Sox Drawer: How to overcome the Twins

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Sox Drawer: How to overcome the Twins

Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011
Posted 5:54 p.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz - Minnesota is a lovely state, 12th largest in the U.S., and the original homes of Bob Dylan, Prince and Winona Ryder; not to mention countless moose, elk, bears, ducks, geese, fish, and prairie dogs.

But bring up its baseball team to any warm-blooded White Sox fan, and you will hear John Q. South Sider describe a dark, grisly place - a squad notorious for getting under your skin, quietly and gradually twisting itself around your arteries and large intestine, and staying there for about a decade.

Like cigarettes and alcohol, the Minnesota Twins can be hazardous to your health.

Especially last year, which might have been the equivalent of chain smoking a shelf of Marlboros and drinking a full keg of beer.

We were 5-13 against them, something like that. Matt Thornton remembers way too accurately. They beat us. They had a better team last year. They beat us up. They were the difference in us winning the division last year.

So true. And the Twins did it without their best power hitter, Justin Morneau, for most of the season (concussion) and closer Joe Nathan for all of it (elbow surgery).

But it wasnt a shock to the White Sox. Theyve seen it all before.

No matter who they lose, or go down with injury, they always have guys who step in and fill their spots, Mark Buehrle said. They lose one of the best closers in baseball last year and everyone thinks, There goes their chances. Its going to be us or Detroit. And the next thing you know, they still win the division.

I ask Buehrle how much he detests the Twins, and to put a number on it between 1 and 10. I thought hed say 11, but got an answer I wasnt expecting.

I dont want to put a number on it. Theyre obviously our biggest division rival and theyre the team thats there every year. But thats one of the most respected teams I have for in the league.

Seriously?

A lot of those guys I enjoy playing against. Off the field I like talking to those guys. (Jim) Thome is over there now and says theyre great guys. Theyre not a dirty team, they play baseball right. So theres a lot about the Twins organization that Im a fan of.

And therein lies the problem. The Twins, despite their recent domination over the Sox (winning the Central Division in six of the last nine years) are just too nice for the Sox to hate.

Its like despising a puppy dog or a kitten. They cant do it.

Name a bad guy on the Twins. Think, think, think. There isnt one.

Yeah, Joe Mauer can be annoying for making 35 trips to the pitchers mound, Morneau never cracks a smile, and Jason Kubel is legally obligated to hit a homer off the Sox in every game for the rest of his life, but under that Twins uniform theyre all wholesome, down-to-earth good people. Not a bad apple in there. Having Thome, one of the most gentle, good-hearted human beings on the planet, certainly isnt helping.

But something has to change.

Yes, the White Sox can praise and admire the Twins if they want, but after the drubbing they took last year, its time to keep those compliments to a minimum - or something close to never. You dont hear the Yankees and Red Sox talk in such a glowing way about each other. It just doesnt happen.

Since the White Sox couldnt beat em in 2010, applaud Kenny Williams for going out and atleast trying to sign em.

Hello, Jesse Crain!

If there was a White Sox killer on the Twins, Crain could often be seen holding a baseball and tomorrows obituary. In 49 career innings against the Sox, Crains ERA is 1.45. And last season? Forget about it, the Sox didnt have a chance. In 10 13 innings, Crain gave up three hits, no runs, and had 10 strikeouts.

No surprise Williams swooped in and gave Crain a three-year, 13-million dollar contract.

So Jesse, mi compadre, now that youve joined forces with the White Sox, whats the secret? How have the Twins been able to beat the Sox so many times over the years?

Its just one of those things where we were playing well and we had their number for a while, Crain said. We could go out there and never feel like we were out of it, and just play hard. Hopefully that switches this year.

Crain had three or four teams in hot pursuit of him, including the Red Sox who eventually signed Bobby Jenks. The White Sox entered the picture at the last minute, completing the deal in about 24 hours. Getting a three-year contract played a big part in Crain coming to Chicago, but so did something else.

After they signed Adam Dunn, they already signed (Paul) Konerko and (A.J.) Pierzynski, I knew they were going to have a great team, and Ive played against them for so long that I know that, Crain said. I know how well were going to do, so that was a huge thing. I want to be apart of a team that has a chance to win.

Take that Minnesota.

And maybe the White Sox can take a cue from John Danks, the last Sox pitcher to beat the Twins in a big game, The Blackout of 2008.

We respect the heck out of them, Danks said. But I think we kind of need to lose a little bit of respect and go out there and beat them up a little bit.

Sounds like a good plan to me.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Preview: White Sox face the Mariners Thursday on CSN

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Preview: White Sox face the Mariners Thursday on CSN

The White Sox take on the Seattle Mariners on Thursday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Thursday’s starting pitching matchup: Anthony Ranaudo vs. James Paxton

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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James Shields, White Sox lose to Phillies and snap winning streak

James Shields, White Sox lose to Phillies and snap winning streak

James Shields allowed his fewest runs in a month on Wednesday night, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a loss.

Shields yielded two more home runs in six innings and his offense couldn’t keep pace as the White Sox lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 5-3 in front of 15,630 at U.S. Cellular Field. Shields gave up four earned runs and seven hits. Dioner Navarro homered in the loss, which snapped a three-game White Sox winning streak.

“We’ve seen better,” manager Robin Ventura said. “(Shields) got to two strikes, two outs and gave up a couple there and that’s tough. The homer to left, that’s just one you get in this ballpark. The biggest one, for him, mistake-wise was the homer to Joseph. I think that’s the one that he wants back. But as far as going out there and getting us to a point, he’s still got room to improve on. But he got through it.”

The six innings pitched marks the most by Shields since July 26.

In between, Shields allowed 28 runs (27 earned) and 33 hits in 14 innings over four turns, good for a 17.36 ERA.

He fell behind 3-0 by the third inning before he settled in and retired nine of 11 batters. The Phillies pieced together a two-out rally in the second inning to go up two runs as Tommy Joseph and Freddy Galvis doubled with an Aaron Altherr singled sandwiched in between.

Cesar Hernandez opened the third inning with a solo homer just inside the left-field foul pole.

Joseph also homered with two outs in the sixth inning to put Philadelphia ahead 4-0.

Shields has allowed 31 homers in 143 innings this season, including 22 in 75.2 innings for the White Sox. Eleven of those have come in his last four starts.

He walked none and struck out six.

“I think the only pitch I made a mistake on was that last one, the home run in the sixth inning there,” Shields said. “The ball kind of slipped out of my hand a little bit and kind of left it over the plate. Other than that I felt good with my location tonight. I was hitting my spots consistently. They were getting hits here and there. That’s part of it. One of the positives things, I didn’t walk anyone and I was getting some swings and misses. But we have to move on and move forward and build off that.”

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The White Sox didn’t have much success against Phillies starting pitcher Jerod Eickhoff, who retired the first nine batters he faced. Avisail Garcia led off the sixth inning with a single and Navarro belted a two-run homer to right to make it a 4-2 game.

Eickhoff limited the White Sox to two runs and four hits in six innings.

Garcia kept the White Sox alive with a two-out RBI single in the ninth inning. But Jeanmar Gomez retired Navarro with runners on the corners to end the threat.

“Until Dio hit the homer there wasn’t much going for us,” Ventura said. “We got one --- I think Adam was the one that breaks it up and gets it going. But (Eickoff) was tough on us. A great curveball. That’s the biggest thing that sticks out. When he got in trouble, that curveball was the pitch for us. After that, it just wasn’t a good night offensively. I don’t think we swung it that well.”

White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez felt good in bullpen session

White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez felt good in bullpen session

If all continues to go well, Miguel Gonzalez could pitch in a rehab start as soon as Friday.

On the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin, the White Sox starter said he felt good during a second bullpen session on Wednesday.

Gonzalez, who is 2-6 with a 4.05 ERA in 19 games (18 starts), threw 30 pitches. He previously threw a bullpen session on Friday and felt some discomfort the following day. But Gonzalez said he has made progress since he received treatment on Saturday.

“A lot better,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t feel anything while I was throwing my bullpen, which is great. I’m happy with the results today and come back tomorrow and we’ll see.”

Gonzalez left an Aug. 11 start at Kansas City in the bottom of the second inning. Though he wasn’t yet sure if he’d head out on a rehab assignment, Gonzalez said he was on the third day of a five-day schedule in which he was supposed to start. But it’s also possible the White Sox could have Gonzalez first throw a simulated game.

“We're going to have him go back out there again and do a little bit more, that looks more like starting in a game where he's going to throw for a little while, sit down, get back up,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Simulate some innings and hopefully after he does that a couple time he can go out for a rehab assignment.”